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University to run new National Research Facility bringing artificial intelligence to Physical Science research

Published: 15 November 2018
Data Science
The new facility will bring Data Science to research in Physical Sciences

Academics and students in the UK will soon be able to make better use of data through artificial intelligence and deep learning in their research, thanks to a new National Research Facility for the physical sciences communities.

The School of Chemistry at the University of Southampton and the Scientific Computing Department at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) have been awarded a research grant of £3m to run the Physical Sciences Data Science facility, which will become operational from 1st January 2019. The new facility will build on the current National Chemical Database Service and will work closely with the Royal Society of Chemistry, which provides that service, to ensure continuity for users during the transition.

As well as widening the service to cover more areas of science, from archaeology to astrophysics, the new facility will make use of open data to bring a wide range of scientific resources to academic research. It will draw on data from different research areas fostering a new kind of collaborative working so that new science can be conducted faster. For example, a chemist simulating new materials will be able to access data about the constituents and the potential interactions between them knowing the full source of the data and with a good understanding of any uncertainties.

By providing access to many data sources together in one place, the Physical Sciences Data Science (PSDS) facility will reduce the need to search over different databases and will enable the physical sciences to move up a gear through the introduction of Data Science; rather than just accessing results data, users will be able to ask complex scientific queries and run artificial intelligence algorithms to obtain meaningful insights from the data.

The PSDS facility will be the second National Research Facility provided by the School of Chemistry at the University of Southampton which, since 1998, has also run the National Crystallography Service  to provide data collection and crystal structure analysis for the UK chemistry community. Both of these services are directed by Professor Simon Coles.

Dr Brian Matthews and Dr Juan Bicarregui will lead the team at STFC’s Scientific Computing Department (SCD), hosting and managing the PSDS Facility. As one of the largest centres in scientific computing services in the UK, SCD has extensive expertise and experience in providing support to several National Facilities and their users, including the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, and the Diamond Light Source, both major centres for physical science research.

Professor  Coles and  Professor Jeremy Frey from University of Southampton are now looking to engage with scientific communities to demonstrate how the facility can transform the way in which they carry out their research and accelerate the time to discovery.   Further, Drs. Bicarregui and Matthews are looking at how to deliver the service within the open data infrastructure for research that is emerging in the UK and across the world.

Professor Robert McGreevy, Director of STFC’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, said: “STFC National Facilities – ISIS, Diamond and the Central Laser Facility – are major producers of physical science data so we have a strong interest in data management and effective downstream utilisation. We welcome this opportunity to work closer with PSDS and link ‘our’ data to ‘theirs’.”

Bashir Al-Hashimi, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences (at the Universjavascript:iw_wizard_doCancel()ity of Southampton) said: “This announcement is excellent news for the University and the UK Physical Sciences community and represents a timely opportunity to harness existing synergies in relation to exploring Data Science and Open Data possibilities across other scientific disciplines, working closely with project partners.”

Richard Kidd (RSC), said: “We congratulate the new PSDS on their award and look forward to working closely with the new service – initially to ensure a seamless transition from the CDS to the PSDS, and then to contribute to improving chemical data handling and reuse.”

The grant has been provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. Both EPSRC and STFC are part of UK Research and Innovation.

 

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